All UTZ certificate holders surveyed:

3 Farmer groups & 9 Tea estates compared to 2 non-certified estates.

Research period:

2011 – 2015

Research carried out in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya regions 


Publication date: April 2016

Fair&Sustainable_AdvisoryService_Logo Nucleus_LogoThis research was independently carried out by Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services (the Netherlands) and Nucleus Foundation (Sri Lanka), this study evaluated the social, economic and environmental outcomes of the UTZ tea program in Sri Lanka. The researchers took a qualitative approach, combining different research methods. They assessed the UTZ program within the local context, from the perspective of different stakeholders, and also looked for unexpected changes. All UTZ certificate holders were surveyed: 12 certificate holders representing 3 farmer groups (325 members) and 9 tea estates (with 6859 workers) and 2 non-certified estates for comparison purposes.  The research was commissioned and financed by UTZ.


Tea is the third largest foreign currency earner for Sri Lanka, and 400,000 smallholders and 300,000 workers depend on its production. However, in recent years the country has seen its export market shrinking, and has struggled with a lack of demand for certified tea. Furthermore, increasing labor costs and low productivity have eroded the profitability of the tea sector.

Research methods:

 Theory of Change Most significant change Key information interviews Household survey Validation workshops




A key change took place in the minds of estate management and workers. Both parties now better appreciated each other’s roles. Workers mentioned they can talk to their managers more openly and managers have noticed reduced worker absenteeism.


Tea quality has consistently improved due to better care for post-harvest handling (reducing transport time between harvest in field and factory, and adherence to hygiene requirements), as well as Good Manufacturing Practices in the factory (drying, sorting and fermenting).


Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices have led to fewer ‘clean weeding’ practices, better handling of pesticides and fertilizers, and the adoption of better harvesting and plucking methods – resulting inhigher yields, better tea-leaf quality and a reduced percentage of rejects.


Female farmers have a better position and feel more appreciated. Estates recognized the important role of female workers in enhancing tea-leaf quality and productivity, with a few estates starting to appoint women as field supervisors. As a result, women have become more vocal and self-confident.


A more transparent premium – tea is usually sold through the Sri Lankan tea auction which does not include the UTZ premium. The premium has to be negotiated separately between buyer and seller. In order to offer a more transparent premium system for all parties, the evaluators recommend to introduce a fixed premium (revised periodically) which is to be added to the nocked down auction price. UTZ will propose this change to stakeholders.

Taking care of the environment – efficient water use, diversification and shade trees have contributed to climate change adaptation. However tea producers have clearly stated the need for more specific guidance and support on climate adaptation practices. UTZ will seek collaboration to start climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in Sri Lanka, as it does in other countries.

Increasing sustainable tea demand – the key recommendation of the report is better promotion of Sri Lankan tea in UTZ markets. While UTZ is not in the position to change market supply and demand dynamics, we will intensify our activities to identify market opportunities for certified Sri Lankan (Ceylon) teas. A list of actions UTZ will take is available on

UTZ Response

A sector that is not profitable is not a sustainable sector.

“UTZ welcomes the outcome of the evaluation and is pleased with the improvements the program has offered tea farmers in Sri Lanka so far. We also share the concerns of certified producers around the low level of certified sales. We continue to be committed to supporting producers, and to increasing market uptake of certified tea. Both are essential for a more sustainable and profitable tea sector. ”

 Female supervisors were appointed for the first time in UTZ certified estates following training by the Institute of Social Development. Previously all supervisors were male, even though tea pluckers are mostly female. In the picture is a female supervisor in the UTZ certified Nuwara Eliya estate.

Photo: Dave Maurice, Nucleus Foundation uses cookies
I agree